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Syrian Forces Open Fire at Mosque; At Least 25 Dead

Syrian security forces opened fire yesterday on protesters gathered at the Omari mosque in the old quarter of the city of Daraa, on the Jordanian border. Six were reported killed at the mosque. Security then fired again on crowds that entered the city in support of the residents, and are alleged to have also opened fire on mourners at the funeral of the victims of the mosque shootings. At least twenty-five are reported dead.

Al-Jazeera’s correspondent in Syria reports “a heavy security presence in Daraa, with the army, anti-terror police and riot police all deployed in the city,” and says journalists are being forcibly kept out. Syrian security has set up checkpoints at all entrances to Daraa. Mobile phone coverage is out and electricity has been shut off in the city.

The Syrian government’s version of events is that an “armed gang” attacked an ambulance at the Omari mosque, killing four. Footage appeared yesterday on state-run television showing an arms cache inside the mosque (see the al-Jazeera video here).

The pro-democracy movement appears uncowed by the violence. Demonstrators are using social-networking sites to rally participants to join mass protests tomorrow, an event they are calling “Dignity Friday.” According to Al-Jazeera, democracy campaigners are being arrested right now, and Loay Hussein, a political prisoner, is reported to have been “taken from his home near Damascus.”